Friday, 30 November 2007

Busy Time of Year

This has been another busy day of a very busy week. And why has it been so busy for me? Because I am working hard at creating a business out of what has previously been mostly a hobby.

I am making a serious effort to change the focus of my business from seasonal greeting cards to other art work -- like the icons I mentioned selling on Wednesday. I will still make note cards for my regular customers, but even there I want to try something new.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with a web site called Toronto the Better
but my business is listed there along with lots of other really interesting businesses.

If you go there, you will find lots of organizations that sell fair trade items and are concerned about being green and ethical. Check it out.

Anyway, they are going to be taking copies of this card (African Grandmother, see above) and placing it in some of their stores where you can buy it. This drawing, by the way, is a picture that came out of a political/social situation in Africa where so many grandmothers are ending up parenting their grandchildren because their children have all died of HIV/AIDS. Also, the organization it was designed for is associated with the Stephen Lewis Foundation. (Remember December 1st is World AIDS Day.)

I have lots more cards that have political/ ethical themes (as my faithful readers know) and I am hoping that they might be interested in selling some of those cards as well.

Meanwhile, I am still working on icons.  Sunday, December 2nd, will be the first Sunday of Advent and Advent is time where Christians prepare for the coming of the Lord.

Therefore, it seemed appropriate to me to work on an icon of the Holy Family as part of my preparation for Christmas. As soon as it reaches the first draft stage I will show it to you and hopefully get some constructive criticism from you.

Also in an effort to increase my creative potential, I have finally decided to seriously pursue the study of Adobe Illustrator (I already have the software). One of my faithful readers sensed that I was finally ready to began and very kindly sent me the link for a wonderful web site called Hassle Me ( I have asked them to remind me every two days that I am supposed to be studying Adobe Illustrator. It will almost be like having parents again!

So, now I think I will return to my art work -- a most enjoyable way to end my day.

Blessings to you all.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007


I had a very interesting experience today: I sold my first actual icons!
Not cards with pictures of icons on them or holy cards with pictures of icons on them, but almost-like-the-real-thing, pictures-on-wood icons!
Quite a few weeks ago, an acquaintance had ordered a "set" of icons (one of Our Lady and the Holy Child and one of The Christ). I told him that I would see what I could do. So, first I drew this picture of Our Lady and the Child known as Our Mother Of Perpetual Help which I have shown you before.
The fact that I was able to draw it as well as I did within the parameters of the traditional style was actually quite amazing to me. I can only guess that my ability had something to do with all the years I have spent meditating before this icon -- the icon that touches me more deeply than any other.

Shortly after finishing the drawing of Our Lady, a dear friend of mine asked me to do a drawing of an icon called Our Lord Pantocrator. I had previously tried to draw one of the many versions of this icon, but it was far from being satisfactory.
Fortunately, my friend was very patient with me and helped me create something closer to the traditional image. I finally reached a point where I think my friend was reasonably satisfied and she gave me permission to go ahead and print some cards for her using this image.
Well, up until today, my acquaintance who had ordered the icons had not seen any of the work I had been doing as he does not have Internet access. In preparation for his visit, I even had the picture of Our Lady mounted on a plaque with gold trim.
When he saw the drawings and saw as well how they will look when mounted on plaques, he was really almost speechless. He said several times: "I expected them to be good, but these are really, really good. They are excellent. So traditional and yet so modern at the same time."
Was this not music to my ears? Of course it was. No matter what they say, every artist loves praise and I am no exception. He went ahead and wrote out a cheque for the full amount before he left and even offered to pay me more "since the work more than meets my expectations."
So, now I will make 8 x 10 prints of these two images and mount each one on a
9 x 12 gold plaque. I am hoping that these are simply the first two of many icons that people will purchase from me in the days to come!
Blessings to you all from a very satisfied Sallie.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Wee Babes

Life is so very precious in all its forms. Everything that is alive struggles to survive until reaching a certain point of desperation or debilitation -- and even then if you give them the tiniest bit of hope, you can see the struggle to live return.

Human beings can sometimes talk themselves into dying for various reasons, but I won't go there tonight. I just mentioned the topic of life because I have been working on this new drawing of a wee babe entitled "Another Precious Life".

The drawing is not really finished yet -- lots of detail work still to be done or done more carefully -- but I wanted to show it to you anyway. I was attracted to this picture because of the unusual position of adult hands without a visible body and the baby being held at an angle. It is really a picture of mostly hands and tiny feet.

Speaking of wee babes, for some time now I have been wanting to show you this lovely photograph taken by a friend of mine a number of years ago.

This is a picture of my friend's granddaughter dressed in the Baptismal outfit worn by the father of the little girl when he was an infant. I love the way she is holding her fingers -- reminiscent of Winston Churchill's victory sign!

My friend was really looking forward to seeing her granddaughter grow up -- but that was not to be. She died of cancer in her mid-50's.

Like most of us would, she fought hard to live. But all the courage in the world is frequently no match for cancer.

My personal belief is that I will see my friend again some day in a place where we will be forever whole, healed and at peace. A place outside of time and age and pain. And that, in fact, my friend will someday meet this grandchild once again.

Truly, life is precious in all its forms.

May your life be blessed.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

A Sleepy Saturday Evening

It has been one of those days where I have kept almost falling asleep time and time again.

My legs were bothering me last night at bedtime and so I finally fell asleep a little past 1:30 a.m. only to wake up at 7:15. My home care was arriving at 8 so I figured I might as well just go ahead and get up. This left me a few hours short of a good night's sleep!

I was fine so long as I was staying active, but then I started reading the weekend newspaper (remember our Saturday paper is like the Sunday paper in the U.S.). After about an hour, I found myself nodding away, jerking awake, trying to finish reading the article, nodding away. So, I gave up reading the paper and figured I will maybe finish it tomorrow. Of course, everytime I glanced across the room, I would see miz k.d. sleeping away so comfortably.

Cats never cease to amaze me when it comes to sleep. I hear that they need about 16 hours a day and they really make certain that they get it! I think they are the absolute professionals when it comes to the art of relaxed sleeping. Like the cat in the drawing above. If you think it looks familiar, it should. This was the original drawing I did some months ago for a set of greeting cards. As we begin to get closer to Christmas, I made a copy of it and re-drew parts of it with torn wrapping paper and a gift tag which reads: "To Kitty From Santa".

This next photograph is one I came across recently and since it gave me a chuckle, I added it to my collection. It reminds me very much of a big ginger-colooured tom-cat I used to have by the name of Mr. Ginger. He was such a delightful character and I still miss him very much. Like so many male cats (and other male creatures), he took the prize when it came to sleeping -- anytime, any place.

Of course, among all creatures, the young sleep the best of all -- I guess they haven't learned about all the fearful things that surround them yet. And a healthy human baby at sleep is certainly a beautiful thing to behold.

This little one here -- all ready for Christmas -- looks like he might be the child of Santa and Mrs. Claus themselves! Actually, he is the young relative of a friend of mine.

This next drawing, which you have seen a number of times previously, is a favourite of mine.

As you may recall, it is entitled "A Mother's Prayer". The child in this picture is certainly old enough to be aware of what a frightening place the world can be and yet, because he sleeps in his mother's arms, he sleeps like a baby.

One of the things that I have always found most attractive about this drawing is that it shows the mother holding her son in a position that must be uncomfortable for her and yet she lets him stay because it seems to be comfortable for him. This is a visible expression of the best of motherly/ fatherly love for a child.

Next is another drawing that you have seen previously. For the life of me, I cannot remember what its proper title is. I should search through my archives and find out, but I am feeling far too lazy and sleepy for that! So I will give it a new and perhaps
temporary name: "Brothers".
Older brother is still so very young himself and yet he suddenly takes on a certain look of maturity as he holds his baby brother in his arms -- protecting him from harm. And his baby brother feels safe, obviously, as he is sleeping soundly.
Finally, I want to show you again a very recent drawing that I completed last weekend and posted for the first time earlier this week.
The title is "Missing Nap Time".

The reason for including it again tonight is because it best shows exactly how I am feeling. I am so sleepy that I think I could even sleep in this position without any problem! Of course, I would be full of aches and pains when I awakened, but I certainly wouldn't have any trouble falling asleep.

And speaking of sleep, even though it is still relatively early on a Saturday night, I see no reason to stay up any longer!

Until the next time, be at peace.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Finally Feeling Better!

unshine on my shoulders...

Light, today was filled with glorious light. Yes, it was bone-chillingly cold, but the sun was shining and whenever I could get myself in the right part of the sidewalk, I could even feel its warmth. Once I almost got hit by some falling ice. Amazing how much heat we still can get from the sun this time of year.
I was thinking a lot about light anyway after two days of very cloudy skies: Wednesday it rained all day; Thursday it tried to snow all day although by the late afternoon there were already glimpses of occasional sunlight.
Light is the artist's friend -- although too much or too little can drive you crazy when you are trying to get an exact colour on a canvas. The ability to show light and shadow can change a boring painting into something exciting. And, of course, there is nothing worse than a muddy canvas -- when it reaches that point, you may as well start over.
I miss being able to work easily with the drama of light in my computer drawings. I understand, from those who know about these things, that this problem is largely my fault because I am too lazy to learn the more sophisticated software that would enable me to put down layers of shading where the colour underneath still shows through. Perhaps if all you folks out there who appear to be faithfully reading my blog were to get on my case... Oh, well, I would probably come up with some new excuse.
Anyway, I want to show you a couple of paintings I did some years ago that were attempts on my part to express something about the symbolic nature of light and how it stands for God or good. I can't recall if I have shown you these previously, if so, bear with me.

This first one is called "The Piercing of the Heart" and represents the soldier's piercing of the Heart of Christ at the crucifixion to make certain that he was really dead.
Catholics have a whole tradition about the Sacred Heart of Jesus -- especially as a hiding place when you are overwhelmed by the harsh realities of life.
This painting was done on poster paper using poster paint.
This next painting was done many years ago and was painted on canvas board with oils. The title for this one is "The Light at the Heart of the World".
I painted this back in the late 1960's when I still believed that we, the young, could change the world by love and non-violence.
Of course, what none of us put into the
equation back then was time. We thought we could change the world by the time we reached the age of 30!
So, this painting came out of the belief that at the centre of everything there was goodness and all we had to do was love the darkness away and let the light shine. Remember?
Interestingly, this was the first painting of mine that anyone ever offered to purchase. I was being very much of a weekend hippie in those days so I said something like, "Hey, man, if you like it that much, it's yours." I can't remember now if he accepted my offer or not!
Anyway, it is great to be feeling better again and I understand we are headed for a gradual warming trend with a few more days of sunshine mixed with clouds. Enjoy!
Peace and blessings to you all.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Now begins the time of the year when I seem to have to take extra pain medication more frequently. I don't know if it is due to the cold, rainy weather or the pending snow storm, but something really has my joints going crazy today.
At any rate, extra medication mean extra sleep is needed. During the times I have been awake, I've continued working on this latest icon -- another icon of Christ, Panocrator. I have been working on it for a number of days now and I think I mentioned it briefly when I was recently discussing the difficulty I have of drawing men's facial hair.
I am still not finished with this drawing, but it is certainly far enough along for me to share it with you.
This is my second attempt at an icon of Christ, Panocrator. The first one I posted some time ago. I downloaded it again tonight so that you could see it and compare it to the newer one.
As you can see, the first one is much darker while the latest one has a more "golden" look about it.
Much of what happens with icons, even for a novice like me, is unexpected and unplanned. I find this is also true to a certain extent with holy cards. It can really be quite exciting at times to see something appear on the screen as the drawing begins to come together that looks totally different from what I had planned to draw!
Well, I am starting to get drowsy again so I think I had better stop and call it a day. I am hoping and praying that once the snow arrives the humidity will decrease and maybe my joints will be happier.
Whatever happens, I pray that we all have a happy day tomorrow, filled with blessings. And to all my American readers: Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Still Recovering

Well, I did not even end up with one black eye, much less two and my nose, while still sore, is healing nicely. No, the biggest problem has been all the additional aches and pains I have had to put up with on top of all my usual aches and pains!

So, I have been spending a lot more time at home working on the computer. I'm trying to draw another icon of Christ -- which is very difficult for me for a number of reasons. You may have noticed that I tend to draw many more children and women than I do men. One of the reasons for that is this primitive software I use does not provide any decent way to do the kind of shading necessary to properly depict facial hair or beard shadow. I keep experimenting and maybe one of these days, I will find a way. Of course, if I would stop drawing all the time and teach myself to use more advanced software, the problem would most likely be solved.

Anyway, whenever I want to take a break from working on the icon, I work on a much simpler drawing like the one above. I call this one "A Kitten in my Coffee Cup" and it makes me chuckle when I look at it. Such a wee, little kitten -- so young that its eyes are still blue. Kittens are so irresistible at that age.

So, here it is a little past 10:30 p.m. and I have to take Wheeltrans to the dentist tomorrow so I think it would be a good idea for me and miz k.d. to call it a day. May tomorrow be a good day for us all.

Blessings and peace.

Saturday, 17 November 2007


I'm feeling a bit like Humpty-Dumpty tonight as I had a great big fall this morning! Nothing is broken, unlike poor old Humpty, but I do have a gash on my nose and may get a black eye. I was trying to do something clever while standing and holding on to my rollator/walker with one hand and reaching out with the other. Obviously, it did not work!

So, I have spent most of the day resting and finishing off this drawing that I started some time ago. I have entitled it: "Missing Nap Time".

I love the relaxed way that children can sleep any place, any time and wake up relaxed and refreshed.

Back when I was healthy and normally active, I often forgot how tired you can get when you are a little person or a not-as-healthy, getting-older-person such as I am now. I can remember looking at children sleeping and thinking how sweet they looked. On the other hand, I can recall seeing elderly people sleeping in public and thinking, somewhat pityingly, how pathetic they looked. O, how the mighty have fallen.

Enough of that... All this talk of sleep is my way of letting you know that I think the time has come for me to call it a day and do what the little girl in the drawing is doing -- only I plan to stretch out in my comfy bed.

If I end up with two black eyes, I will try to get someone to take a picture of me so you can see how "colourful" I look!

Blessings and peace.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Grandmothers and AIDS

Grandmothers and what? you might say... What do grandmothers have to do with AIDS?

Well, in Africa, as I've mentioned previously, many grandmothers are raising their grandchildren because their own children have died from HIV/AIDS.

Of course, numbers of their children did not have to die if they could have had access to the current "cocktail" of drugs that enables many AIDS patients to live much longer, healthier lives. The problem, as you no doubt are aware, has been pharmaceutical companies unwillingness to make the cheap forms of these "drug cocktails" available plus the reluctance on the part of many groups and governments within Africa to talk about HIV/AIDS openly and admit what really causes its transmission.

I have been thinking a lot about this whole problem again recently because I decided to do two new drawings. This first one [above] is called "Canadian Grandmother" and is taken from a photo of a Canadian grandmother who has been instrumental in doing some of the initial groundwork in forming the Mothers (Grandmothers) for African Grandmothers. The various local chapters of this organization do different types of fund raising and use the money raised to assist African grandmothers who are courageously raising all their grandchildren single-handedly without the assistance of social programs such as we have in Canada.

If you would like more information about finding a group close to you or starting a group yourself, there is some information on the Internet or you could write me and I could put you in contact with people who either have some answers or know where to get them.

This next drawing is one of the grandmothers being helped. She is also very active in her own community in South Africa. As well, she and the Canadian grandmother shown above are acquainted.

It is my understanding that grandmothers in South Africa are called GoGo. I am not sure why or where the name comes from or even how widespread its use is since South Africa is a country of a number of different tribal languages.

I thought about using GoGo as part of the title for this drawing, but then remembered that I had already used it previously... so, falling back on my usual creative abilities, I decided to name it "South African Grandmother". See, I haven't lost my touch!

Finally, I want to show you once again the very first drawing I did of an African grandmother.

This one is cleverly named "An African Grandmother" and was used for a time by the local chapter of Mothers for African Grandmothers as their card for writing their invitations and thank you notes as well as for selling as a means of fund-raising. I noticed recently that they had a bulletin up on our notice board about a planned meeting -- the first one of those that I have seen for some time. So, maybe they will be asking for some more copies of their card.

Blessings and peace.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Forgiveness, Part II

And now for Part II on Forgiveness.

What really started me thinking more deeply once again about forgiveness were three news items: one on the TV and two in the Toronto Star newspaper. I quickly gave some indications last night of how I have approached my own struggles with forgiveness: by acting loving towards my enemies whether I feel that way or not -- especially by praying for them each day; making my struggle to forgive an regular issue in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and reminding myself frequently that my faith teaches that I will be forgiven to the same degree that I forgive others. But that is just my way and there are all sorts of other ways out there that are enabling people to forgive and learn to love no matter how terribly they have suffered.

The first news item that really started me re-thinking this whole subject was about elephants! Perhaps some of you saw the recent 60 Minutes segment about the elephants gathering in northern Africa. They are very social animals and often get together in family groups. The reporter was being flown over an area where an unusually large number of elephants were gathering when they spotted men on horseback with guns. The guide knew right away what was going to happen so they put the plane down as soon as they could and got a land vehicle and drove overland to the location only to find rotting elephant carcasses as far as the eye could see -- only the ivory tusks had been taken.

As an adult, I have come to have a great appreciation of all the creatures we share this planet with and when I see human beings casually slaughtering these magnificent beasts in order to make black market trinkets for tourists, I truly feel hate rise up in my heart. I don't know these men and will never meet them, but there is a part of me that could gladly kill them -- instead, I begin the difficult process of praying for them -- not praying to change them, but simply asking God to bless them and when I think of them, praying to change my thoughts from anger to thoughts of compassion. I will tell you the truth -- it ain't easy and lots of times I don't succeed at all!

The next item that stirred all this up for me was a photo in the Star newspaper. It is a photo that I am not really sure should ever have been taken -- it is just so intimate and personal. However, it was taken and it was published and I saw it and I thought to myself "how will she ever live with that terrible grief?"

Her 3-year-old daughter was playing where one would assume she would be safe: the yard of her baby sitter's house, when a car with two teenagers in it went out of control and ended up on the lawn, killing the little girl. You know how I love to look at hands -- well, look at hers -- she is feeling such anguish and yet her hands hold the bird in such a way that it is not frightened. Will she ever be able to forgive? I am mute before her for I have never suffered such a tragedy.

Then the inquiry started regarding the work of the pathologist, Dr. Smith. The paper shows some of the people whose lives were forever changed by Dr. Smith's findings -- findings which have now proven incorrect. Think of being charged with murdering your own child or the child of a family member. Not only is your precious child gone, but you find yourself accused of cruelly murdering it. Where do you even start to rebuild your life after something like this?

And what about forgiveness? It seems to me that if you allow the hate to take over it would eat you up like cancer and rob you of any hope for ever being really free again. What can we say in the face of such tragedy?

Within the framework of my Christian faith, I pray for them all -- but then I must also pray for Dr. Smith as well as for the teenagers who killed the 3-year-old at play as well as the men who killed the elephants. But of course, Christians are not alone in this approach. Just look at what a world-famous man who has suffered greatly for many, many years has to say about his fellow human beings:

"Whether people are beautiful and friendly or unattractive and disruptive, ultimately they are human beings, just like oneself. Like oneself, they want happiness and do not want suffering. Furthermore, their right to overcome suffering and be happy is equal to one’s own. Now, when you recognize that all beings are equal in both their desire for happiness and their right to obtain it, you automatically feel empathy and closeness for them. Through accustoming your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others: the wish to help them actively overcome their problems. Nor is this wish selective; it applies equally to all. As long as they are human beings experiencing pleasure and pain just as you do, there is no logical basis to discriminate between them or to alter your concern for them if they behave negatively.

Let me emphasize that it is within your power, given patience and time, to develop this kind of compassion. Of course, our self-centeredness, our distinctive attachment to the feeling of an independent, self-existent “I”, works fundamentally to inhibit our compassion. Indeed, true compassion can be experienced only when this type of self- grasping is eliminated. But this does not mean that we cannot start and make progress now."
The Dalai Lama is truly a man of peace, compassion and forgiveness. He had everything taken from him as a young man, he had to flee from his country and he has had to watch the mistreatment of his people who stayed behind. Yet, he speaks of those we would assume to be his enemies with compassion and even kindness. He does not excuse their behaviour, but the Dalai Lama does not hate and in spite of all he has suffered, his life is filled with a joyous freedom.
So much of our desire to forgive, our struggles to forgive and the peace that can come when we are finally able to forigive -- so much of this is a mystery -- like so many other things in our lives.
In the final analysis, all I can tell you is what seems to be working in my life in the hope that some part of it might work for you.
The reason I chose this drawing to end with is because it is called "Walking Away From Slavery" and really, what it seems to me we are all seeking is that freedom that comes when we are able to trustingly rest in a Love greater than ourselves -- to walk out of bondage into the promised land.
Walking Away from Slavery, drawing by S. Thayer


Monday, 12 November 2007

Forgiveness, Part I

I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness for the past few days for various reasons.
Whenever I think about forgiveness, I always think about those people in my life whom I have found most difficult to forgive. Like so many human beings from what we now call "dysfunctional families", my parents are at the top of the list.
This is a drawing I did of them from a photograph taken when they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. At that time, I was still a long way from even being able to admit how destructive our relationships were. Only years later when I began to face the truth, could I start learning how to let go of the past and forgive.
Another recent event that started me thinking a bit more deeply about forgiveness was reading the testimony of a woman by the name of Anna. Her feelings and attitudes sound remarkably similar to mine although obviously the events in our lives would differ. Anna is a Roman Catholic as I am and she found her way to the beginnings of forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (more commonly known as Confession). I would like to quote that part of her story for you.
"Finally after years of struggling, years of being told that my lack of forgiveness was perfectly understandable, I decided to see if returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation would help. As I confessed my anger to the priest, I think I expected to hear him tell me as others had that it was understandable and even justifiable, but instead, he said to me very quietly, “you have to forgive.” Forgive! I thought to myself forget that nonsense.

Then the priest went on to say, you not only have to forgive, you have to pray for your parents. I was stunned. I mean, I knew what Christ Jesus said about loving our enemies and praying for those who mistreat you, but surely he did not mean parents who had abused me in every way imaginable, without respite, for all those years of my life. Parents who had left me so wounded that I was incapable of feeling love or making a normal commitment in adulthood.

The priest, however, said “yes” that was exactly what he meant and then he began to talk with me about how I would never know peace until I could forgive and love those I considered my enemies. He said he wasn’t talking about feeling love, but that love was a decision. I had to decide to do things God’s way no matter how I felt. And that since my parents were both dead, I could show that love by praying for them every day and having Mass offered for them each year.

I was so desperate that I made the decision right then to try to do things God’s way and as I told the priest this, I was flooded by the grace of God and was given the beginnings of that peace which passes all human understanding. The words of absolution had never sounded so beautiful. My penance was to pray an Our Father for my mother and one for my father and to really pay attention when I reached the part that says “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

The years since have not been easy especially on days when I remember vividly some particularly horrible instance of abuse from my past, but I have continued to pray for my parents every day. God has blessed my feeble attempts to follow his will by putting me in situations where I am able to share my story with others who are hurting, showing them that forgiveness is possible. I realize that I am becoming a channel of God’s peace.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Our Lord said, “for they shall be called the children of God.”

To be continued....


Saturday, 10 November 2007


Flanders Fields by Major John McCrae, M.D., Canadian Military (1872-1918)
IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

It seemed right to me what with tomorrow being Remembrance Day to use my drawing entitled "Poppies" and also include McCrae's famous poem IN FLANDERS FIELDS. Although I don't really like the idea of "taking up the quarrel with the foe", considering the time in which it was written, I guess there wasn't much else that could have been done.

So, I choose to remember all the many members of the Canadian military who have died in the terrible wars and conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries as well as all those who loved them and had to suffer the terrible pain of their loss. I pray for them all and hope that the day will soon come when wars will be no more.

The drawings I am showing you tonight are all ones you have seen previously, but I haven't done any recent drawings with a military theme. This first one is called "Afghan Kitty" and the idea came from a news photo of one of our troops on patrol in Afghanistan last year.

This next one was also a news photograph. I call my drawing "Goodbye and God Keep You".

Everyone, even the little boy, looks like they are trying to be strong for each other. The wife, especially, seems to have that determined look that says I will not cry no matter what.

Following are two photographs from the recent Canadian Living magazine.

This first one is of an actual Tim Hortons in Kandahar for the troops there. I am sure it gives the soldiers a good feeling to be able to go out in the early morning for a cup of real Tim Hortons coffee!

I have many friends and acquaintances who really like Tim Hortons. I, on the other hand, usually go elsewhere for coffee because I am addicted to lattes. The best ones in my neighbourhood are made by my friend, Kelvin, who owns the Timothy's at the corner of Front and Jarvis. So good...

This next item from the magazine is an interesting list of facts about our Canadian forces.

It is good to be reminded about how many people are involved in the regular forces and in the reserves.

One particular bit of information that I wasn't really aware of is how many other locations, besides Afghanistan, our forces are represented in: 10, including Bosnia, Haiti and Jerusalem.

Finally, I want to end tonight's posting with one of the many earth-from-space pictures I have collected. This view, taken at night, shows Europe, northern Africa and the mid-East.

I thought this one was a good choice since it shows the actual land mass where many of our troops are located tonight.

What really interests me about these views (I have one of the north and south America side of the planet as well) is where all the lights are. Look at Europe and then look at northern Africa. What a difference!

Anyway, I am starting to ramble! I hope we will all stop for a moment tomorrow at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to remember all those who have given their lives for others.

"Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me".

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Red Sky at Morning

I should have never let myself get involved in searching through the drawer that has poems, "prosems" and diaries from years past. I think it all started because of the night I tried remembering a few fragments of the poem that begins "There's not a word I've ever written...". Not being able to remember the whole thing caused me to go searching for it. I still haven't found it, but, goodness, have I found a lot of other junk!

This first picture is a painting of mine from the 60's called "California Dreamin'" It is a scene near Malibu and I am looking out from a shallow cave. The reason I chose this painting is because it shows a sunrise with some reddish clouds. This relates to the poem I came across and wanted to share with you. The poem is untitled and was written in 1994 while visiting my sister, Betty and her husband, B.K. in Florida at American Thanksgiving.

Red sky,
"Red sky at morning,
sailors take warning..."

I step outside and look up at the sky
half night, half morning
The wind blows off the lake
sweet and cold
Red birds are already up and talking
"Coo-E, coo-E"
Florida deer stand small and fairy-like
at the edge of the woods
Moon and planets still shine brightly
"oh, look, a shooting star!"

I marvel in my ability to feel joy...
dare I say it?
To rejoice in being alive!

How quickly the moment passes
Suddenly I can feel
the cold wind blowing through my robe
I hurry inside
to warmth and
the mundane.

This poem has a funny story attached. A few hours later, after jotting it down at the dining room table, my sister, Betty, finally got up. I was standing in the dining room looking out towards the lake. Betty noticed my writing on a piece of paper so she picked it up and begin to read. When she got to the end, she shouted, "mundane" -- "you think you can get away with describing a visit with your big sister as mundane?!" At which point she begin to chase me around the dining table while I shouted out "poetic licence, I've got poetic licence"! By now we were both laughing and shouting at each other and her husband, B.K., walked in with a load of wood for the fireplace. He stood and looked at us for a moment and then just shook his head and said: "I leave you two alone for just a few minutes and this is what I come back to!" They are both gone now and, oh, how I miss them.

So following the theme of "red sky at morning", I thought I would show you a few photos from my files.

This first one is called "Canoeing at Sunrise" and I kept it because it looks very appealing to me. I doubt that the sailors' rhyme applies to inland waterways, but this gives me a good excuse to show it to you.

This next drawing is one you have seen before. Matter of fact, I think it was in the very first posting I ever did. Anyway, it is entitled "Two Solitudes" and is of the B.C. coastline. If it looks familiar to you, it may be because the photograph I worked from is frequently used in the tourist literature for B.C. And while the sky is a bit reddish purple, this is not an uncommon colour for the sky at both morning, evening and mid-day along coastal B.C. At any rate, the drawing still gives me a lot of pleasure.

This photograph is called "Red Sky at Sunrise" and I think that is a pretty impressive sky. Truly, Nature is the absolutely best artist of us all.
I have no idea where this photo was taken although the trees make it look a bit like Canada. If the location was anywhere near open water and I saw a sunrise like that, I think I would keep my fishing boat home for the day!

This next drawing of mine is one I have also shown you previously. It was part of my "Lighthouse/Windmill Exhibition". I called this one "Eastern Stones" just so
I wouldn't have to call it Peggy's Cove!
This is another red sky at morning, but then you often see these red sky mornings in cold weather down east -- so I am not sure if the rhyme works for them or not!

This last photograph for the evening is also from B.C. It is a picture of early morning on Canim Lake. What a great spot that would be for starting your day. I would imagine that the air tastes sweet and clean. The only sounds might be the lapping water and bird calls.

Finally, I will show you the only drawing I have of the rest of the "red sky" verse. I have also shown you this one before. It is entitled "Sailors' Delight" and as I mentioned at the time, this comes from the final two lines of the rhyme -- which, in its entirety, goes:
Red sky at morning
Sailors take warning
Red sky at night
Sailors' delight.
Wishing you a peaceful night.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


Hands are such incredibly beautiful things -- at all stages of life. I love trying to draw them even though they are without doubt one of the most difficult parts of the human body to capture -- in my opinion.

I have always loved to watch the hands of the elderly as they pray the Rosary -- the beads silently slipping through their often twisted fingers. Of course, it dawned on me a few years ago that my hands are looking more and more elderly with their arthritic lumps and bumps and age spots of varying shades and sizes. This realization came as something of a shock for me, but now I think I am getting used to the idea!

Of course, speaking of hands would be incomplete without referring to Rodin and his famous sculpture entitled (in English) The Cathedral (see below). Knowing how difficult it is to draw or paint the human hand, I always marvel at his ability to perfectly sculpt it.

That said, let me talk a bit about my experience of drawing hands and show some of art work and related photographs.

First, I would like to show you the drawing I have been working on for the past week or so. It is still not completely finished, but this seemed a good time to show you what I have accomplished so far -- especially as I wanted to show you the hands I have drawn.

This icon is called Our Lady (or Mother) of Perpetual Help and has been famous for many centuries -- especially in the western church where the Wednesday novenas are still huge gatherings in many countries.

I am drawing this copy as part of a commission. Someone who really likes the style of my work wanted this particular icon, as well as one of Christ called The Pantocrator, as 8 x 10 wall plaques. Anyway, in this icon, the hand of Our Lady being held by the Christ Child is at the heart of the painting. The child has just seen the angels holding the instruments of his crucifixion and death and has run to his Mother's arms so quickly that one of his sandals is about to fall off.

In this next drawing, entitled "A Redemptoristine at Prayer", you may notice a small icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the upper right corner. This is because the Redemptorist priests and brothers were placed in charge of the care of the original icon in Rome many years ago and now they as well as the Redemptoristine nuns have a very special devotion to Our Lady under this title.

However, the reason for including this drawing was not to show you the icon but to point out the hands. The drawing of the nun is loosely based on a photo I have of myself as a novice in a white veil, but the model for the hands was a photo of the former superior of the community who is now deceased. She was a truly holy woman and I was proud to be able to consider her a friend -- this was my way of making a memorial.

Of course, the hands of children and babies can be so beautiful as they reach out to explore the world around them. How very, very sad it is when adults involve those hands in unnecessary pain and suffering.

From what I know of this little girl, she is greatly loved and cared for. I tried to capture that in the drawing, especially in her lovely hands so gracefully folded in front of her.

Such a young child yet already you can see the gentle woman she will undoubtedly become. This drawing, by the way, is entitled "Anaka".

Here is a newspaper photo of a mother holding onto her little boy's hands. I actually did a drawing of the little boy
which I showed you in an earlier

Although I knew I wasn't likely to draw just the hands, I scanned that part of the photo as well simply because I like hands so much.

You can draw all sorts of conclusions about the mother and the child just from looking at the hands, but the only one you can be certain of is that they love each other very much.

Here, then, is a view of Rodin's famous sculpture -- bringing us full circle -- and also providing me with an opening to share with you a poem I found when I went searching after last night's posting. It was written in 1995 during a trip to the U.S.

The Rodin Exhibition
The sculptures were all magnificent
of course
when I stood before the one entitled
The Cathedral
(two right hands touching at the fingertips)
I almost wept at the sheer beauty before me.

As I fought back these tears of joy,
I thought immediately of you
of how often we touch right hands
in greeting, in reassuring, in parting
and I could not help but become aware
of how holy an action that is between
close friends.

Rodin also called this work
The Alliance
a word rich in meaning
(especially in French)
a word which also made me think of you
For how often our hearts meet
in agreement,
affirming one another
How often we are allied against all things
in our lives that would cause us suffering
Supporting, strengthening, shielding.

Truly, the "cathedral" formed by two right
hands touching in love is a sacred place
where the divine is always present.


Monday, 5 November 2007

How Quickly We Learn

As I have no doubt mentioned before, this is a drawing of a very precious young relative of mine -- he even had the good sense to be born on my birthday which was undoubtedly this nicest birthday gift I ever received! The drawing is called
"Walking Tall" and shows him making a determined effort to master the skill of walking.

He has always seemed delightfully comfortable in his own skin and relatively unconcerned about what the world around is thinking of him. Then, today, I received a new photo in which something seems to have changed. I could just be imagining things but he is old enough now so that he is spending more time with other children and we all know how cruel children can be to one another.

You see, this sweet boy has a disease which can cause certain kinds of disfigurement, but he has never seemed to pay any attention to the problems associated with it. Neither he nor his parents have ever made any special effort to hide or disguise the problems. That is why the photo I received today was so striking -- it looks as though he has purposely turned his head away from the camera so that only the best side is showing! See what you think.

Maybe I am just trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, but his body language seems very different to me. Let me show you two more photos from the last year or so when he seemed totally unconcerned about such things as how he looked.

All this starting me thinking about the messages we receive from our earliest days and how quickly we learn about ourselves and the world around us from those messages. Even though young children often misunderstand the messages they receive because they don't yet understand themselves in relation to the world around them.

And while it is difficult enough to get the correct information taken in and figure it out properly, what if you are a member of a particular minority? -- Especially a minority that carries many negative characteristics in the minds of the majority? What then? I can only imagine what negative messages these Native Canadian youngsters have internalized by this point in their lives. (This drawing of mine, by the way, is entitled: "Three Sisters at a Picnic").
This next photograph is one I have been thinking about drawing for quite some time. It came from a mission magazine and is called "miracle child". She has had surgery to repair a very severe harelip (you can see the before picture in her hand) and now she has a chance to have a more normal (whatever that is) life. Doesn't she have the most incredible eyes and eyebrows?
Once again, I can't help but wonder about the messages she heard and learned during those early years when people would have turned away from her in disgust.

This drawing, as you may recall, was finished fairly recently. It is not easy to look at nor was it easy to draw. I can only wonder what this young woman thinks about herself after the kinds of messages she has received during her lifetime. (The title, by the way, is "Please Don't Cut Me").

I recall the episode in the book The Color Purple about the young African woman who ended up leaving the safety of the missionaries and going back to her village and allowing herself to be circumcised. Do you remember what she said?
The messages we get in those first years are so powerful that most of us have to live with them for the remainder of our lives. We can do all sorts of psychotherapy, mindfulness training, etc. and the best many of us seem to be able to come up with is to become aware of the process going on within us, understanding why we respond in the ways we do and sometimes being able to turn off the message in mid-transmission.

Finally, tonight, I would like to show you a photograph of a little 3-year-old girl by the name of Sallie (real name Sarah).
Yes, that was me all those years ago and, as you can imagine, I had quickly learned all sorts of messages about who and what I was and my role in the universe. For example, I already knew that my parents' happiness depended entirely on my doing whatever my father demanded -- even if it made me feel uncomfortable -- so that he wouldn't yell at my mother. As well, I also knew that my mother's happiness depended on my listening to whatever she wanted to talk to me about when we were alone -- even if it made me feel uncomfortable -- so that she wouldn't tell my father when I misbehaved.
Over the years I have often written poetry as most people have. Tonight this photo reminds of one poem I wrote back in the 70's (I think). Anyway, I can only recall fragments of it, but it seems a fitting way to end tonight's post:
There's not a word I've ever written,
There's not a word I've ever read;
That would enable me to share with you,
What's going on inside my head...

Trust you say will enable me to
bring what's dead to life;
Will enable me to reveal to you
all the anger, fear and strife;
Truth eludes me each time I try to speak;
What I tell is well-crafted,edited,
so nicely turned around;
while inside my head
I'm screaming: "Hear me, hear me"
But I never make a sound.

Peace be with you.